David Cleland literally wrote the book on project management

David Cleland

Industrial engineering faculty member David I. Cleland, a pioneer in project management and co-founder of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC), died Aug. 1, 2018 at 92.

Earning his initial degrees from Pitt (a bachelor’s degree in 1954 and MBA in 1958), Cleland received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University and joined the Swanson School faculty in 1967, retiring as professor emeritus in 1999. He was appointed the school’s Ernest E. Roth Professor of Industrial Engineering in 1990 and wrote, co-wrote or edited more than three dozen books on project management, engineering management and manufacturing management, including “Project Manager's Portable Handbook” in 2000.

Cleland’s work had many fans, including future Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heavily “borrowed” from “Strategic Planning and Public Policy,” written by Cleland and fellow Pitt professor William R. King, in his 1976 doctoral thesis, according to researchers at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.

Cleland received the lifetime achievement award in project management in 2010 from the Project Management Institute (PMI), where he was a charter member of the Pittsburgh chapter. He was named a PMI fellow in 1987 and received PMI’s distinguished contribution to project management award three times (1983, 1993 and 2001), as well as its special contribution award in 1990 and presidential citation in 1991. The organization named an award in his honor, the PMI David I. Cleland Excellence in Project Management Literature award.

During his years at Pitt, he presented seminars on project management throughout the world, served as a management consultant and as an expert witness in legal cases, and received funding for more than a dozen major research projects. The MAC, which he also co-directed, provides manufacturing systems technology assistance for small to mid-sized Western Pennsylvania companies.

Bopaya Bidanda — Cleland’s department chair and his successor as the Ernest E. Roth professor — recalled his colleague as “one of the giants in the field of project management.” Known as a father of the field, Cleland “first proposed integrating strategic planning and project management,” Bidanda said. The pair co-authored five books.

“He really mentored many, many junior faculty,” Bidanda added. “He would reach out to them, and he treated them as equals from day one.”

Cleland also taught an influential department class in engineering management.

“He taught core courses at the undergraduate level, and every student who went through his classes remembered the material and used the material for a long time,” Bidanda said. “He would have students coming back 25, 30 years later and saying it was the best course they ever had.”

Cleland, Bidanda remembered, “had a wicked sense of humor but he was a gentleman to the core. His sense of ethics was incredible. They don’t make them like him anymore.”

Born on March 21, 1926, in Harmony, Pa., Cleland served two years in the Navy during World War II in the South Pacific and later in West Germany and Ohio, where he was project manager in the development of ballistic weapon systems. He retired as a lieutenant colonel. He married Velma Jane “Janie” Bintrim in 1950; they were married 65 years until her death in 2016, and had three children. He is survived by daughter Jennifer Leigh, son Matthew Brent and many nieces and nephews.